How Business Process Management Can Improve Your Delegation Skills

For every item you cross off your to-do list, do three more pop up? As much as you try to remove tasks and responsibilities, do you just feel overwhelmed by your workload? You need business process management.

Process management serves to provide clarity within organizations, and can be applied at the team and departmental levels. Even if you only have a few people working under you, you can use this strategy to discover opportunities to delegate and make your business run more seamlessly. It’s time to delegate and BPM is here to help.

Delegating Tasks Benefits Your Whole Team

We tend to think about delegation as a leadership-specific issue. Managers need to delegate so they can expand the business and maintain a positive work-life balance. However, there are benefits of handing more work off to your staff as well. Leadership coach David Grossman shares a few of the benefits of delegation:

  • Delegation prevents you as a leader from taking on too much.

  • Delegation increases trust and engagement within your team.

  • Delegation develops skills in your team and spurs creativity.

  • Delegation creates a positive business culture.

Employees understand that taking on work is an acknowledgement of their skills and ability. They are happy to help because they know that you trust them and recognize their worth in the company.

That said, there are significant benefits to those managers who delegate. A study co-authored by Thomas N. Hubbard, professor of management at Northwestern Kellogg, found that lawyers who work with associates earn over 20 percent more when they delegate effectively. This figure jumps to 50 percent for top lawyers. They earn more because they can focus on more complicated work while their associates pick up the less strategic tasks.


Fear Motivates Many Delegating Decisions

Despite the proven benefits of delegating, many leaders struggle with it. While each has their own reasons, there are some general themes. Lisa McKale at Resourceful Manager lists some of the most common excuses. Two that stand out are: Managers feel like training and onboarding takes too much time, and they worry about the consequences if the delegated task is not done right.

Managers think that delegating will actually take more time, when in actuality, this lack of delegation creates clogs the business process. They are responsible for doing so much that projects stagnate and fall behind until someone in a leadership position gets to it.

Delegation goes hand-in-hand with authority and responsibility. Lin Grensing-Pophal, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning,” emphasizes the differences of responsibility and authority within the corporate world. People who have authority are able to take certain actions through granted permissions. Meanwhile, responsibility refers to the ultimate owner of a task — or the person who has to answer for the end result.

Lack of trust and fear of repercussions is why managers rarely delegate. They worry their team members won’t do a good job or make the right decision.  

Fear Also Causes Employees to Delegate Up

Fear doesn’t just motivate managers, it motivates employees. It makes them less likely to accept delegated work and more likely to pass the decisions back to management.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Mary Steffel, Elanor F. Williams, and Jaclyn Perrmann-Graham explain that when it comes to addressing problems, most people delegate up the chain or across the company, not to subordinantes. “Participants only delegated when the other person was of equal or higher status and would be held officially responsible for the outcome of the decision,” they report.

Unfortunately, this is how backlogs build in management. For every task a manager offloads, employees return another that requires a decision they don’t feel comfortable making themselves. The pressure stays on management and less work gets done.


Process Management Provides Opportunities for Delegation

The goal of business process management is to clarify who has authority to do what, who has the skills, and which tasks can be optimized for greater efficiency.

“Process management aims to precisely define and document who does what when and how,” writes BPM consultant Bernd Ruffing. “Through appropriate classifications of processes, the entrepreneur can also identify which processes are well suited for delegation. Additionally, the one responsible for performing always has a fitting description of the work and tasks to be completed.”

BPM is ideal for improving delegation within companies. From a high-level view, managers can see who is best suited for the work, reducing fear on both sides. Managers can trust the teams they delegate to and employees can feel comfortable with their assignments.

Dan Stoll, VP of product technology at Hyperfish, highlights three ways workflow delegation helps leaders prevent project clogs:

  • Team can take immediate action if something goes wrong when clear workflow plans are in place.

  • Teams are better able to collaborate because they know who is capable of what, so they can solve problems faster.

  • Companies can develop multiple review and approval processes to prevent errors from moving too far down the development path.

Delegation means multiple people have the ability and know-how to get work done, which speeds up most projects.

You can even use BPM within your day-to-day task list to better understand your workload before you start delegating. Communications professional Joan Michelson encourages people who “don’t have enough time” to document how they spend their days over the course of two weeks. By finding wasted time and unnecessary tasks, you can restructure your day to open up windows of time. You can see what needs to be delegated and work with your team to improve how things are done.

You don’t need to invest in expensive BPM programs to personally audit your own processes throughout the week.


5 Ways Managers Can Use BPM to Improve Delegation

Understanding the value of process management in delegation is the first step, but the hard part is applying the concepts to your own workplace. Many leaders want to delegate, but aren’t sure how to do it effectively. Fortunately, you have a few options based on your daily workload.

Understand the True Costs of Delegation

Most managers realize that delegation isn’t free. Especially when you’re first starting off, managers need to put in extra time, training and effort to make sure the work is getting done properly.

Kevin Hakman, founder and CEO of TeamworkIQ, calls this concept the “delegation tax” or the amount you have to pay to take something off your plate. Your “tax” refers to time spent distributing the work and reviewing the results. However, over time and with the right processes, this tax can start to diminish as you learn to trust your team and they grow more comfortable taking on additional work.

As you delegate, leave time for training, reviewing and checking-in. This way you won’t feel overwhelmed or shocked when you need to give time to a task you thought you delegated.

Prioritize Your Top Tasks Each Week

Managers often don’t know what they should be delegating and what they can afford to let go of. Executive onboarding professional George Bradt reminds leaders to follow the 40-30-20-10 Rule of Time management process to help them understand where they need to delegate and how. It’s broken down as follows:

  • 40 percent of your time should be spent on your top priority (likely strategic).

  • 30 percent should be spent on your second priority (likely organizational).

  • 20 percent should be spent on your third priority (likely operational).

  • 10 percent should be spent on everything else combined.

If you follow this process, your delegation levels will be reversed. You can spend time on your biggest issues, while your team members work on organizational, operational and miscellaneous tasks. This also keeps your workload strategic, so you don’t get too far into the weeds.

Learn The Strengths of Your Team Members

BPM can help you create a path for delegation by understanding your team and assigning tasks that are a good fit for your staff.

“If you want to get as much done as possible, you need to really understand how to best delegate to your team members,” writes entrepreneur and connector John Rampton. “You need to know each of their individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they best work. When you delegate tasks to them, keep those things in mind so that your team as a whole has the best possible chance of being efficient.”

Virender Jeet, SVP at Newgen Software Technologies, says collaboration is the fuel that process management runs on. Effective processes in the modern workforce require multiple arms working together, from remote teams across the world to contractors down the street. This means that collaboration — and its partner tools communication and delegation — are essential elements for a project to be completed successfully.

Use the Skills of Others to Let Go

Once you understand the strengths of your team and their skills, you can start to take steps back and let them work.

“While it may seem difficult, elevating your impact requires you to embrace an unavoidable leadership paradox: You need to be more essential and less involved,” Jesse Sostrin, author of “The Manager’s Dilemma” writes at Harvard Business Review. “When you justify your hold on work, you’re confusing being involved with being essential.”

When delegating work to a strong team, staff will come to you with solutions and guidance, rather than problems. Camille Fournier, author of “The Manager’s Path,” says she is often tempted to jump in when problems arise. She is responsible for the team and wants to take the work on herself to resolve problems. However, as her team grows more confident, they really just want to check in and make sure they are making the right call. They want to brainstorm solutions and then execute them.

The burden is no longer on Fournier, although she is still aware of the problem and how her team is solving it.  

Let Your Team Members Take More Ownership

When done well, delegating will have a snowball effect on your team. By giving them the authority and autonomy to make decisions, they can start to review processes and come up with better plans for the work.

“Finding specialists can do more than just assist, they can be proactive in discovering and executing those core aspects,” writes brand strategist Laura Monroe. This means you will spend less time explaining and managing others (decreasing your delegation tax) and more time focusing on the big picture.

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